Why Akon Got Banned From Sri Lanka Over Seconds of a Music Video

Akon isn’t the sort of artist known for stoking controversies — however, he did get banned from Sri Lanka because of a music video. The outrage began with a song with a somewhat risque name. From there, he managed to upset some religious people due to a choice of decor.

Akon in a chair
Akon | MTV/Getty Images

The music video that led to a massive religious protest

It all started with David Guetta. Guetta is a DJ known for hits like “Without You,” “Titanium,” and “Turn Me On.” He’s collaborated with superstars like Nicki Minaj, the Black Eyed Peas, Sia, and Usher. Early in his career as an EDM icon, he worked with Akon on a dance track called “Sexy B*tch.”

As you can imagine from its title, “Sexy B*tch” includes some explicit lyrics — so much so that many radio stations played a censored version called “Sexy Chick.” However, it wasn’t the lyrics of the song which caused the most controversy — it was a few short moments from its music video.

“Sexy Chick”

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The video for “Sexy B*tch” includes some scantily-clad dancers and a statue of Buddha appears in a few shots. According to Entertainment Weekly, this use of a statue of Buddha sparked outrage in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist nation and using a statue of Buddha in a highly sexualized video was a provocation, intentional or otherwise. Hundreds of protestors descended upon an office of American Talent Agency, a sponsor of an Akon concert. Vibe reports protestors threw stones at workers there. Akon responded and understood their pain.

“[I] am a spiritual man, so I can understand why they are offended,” Akon said. “But violence is never the answer and I am disheartened to hear about what happened in Sri Lanka.” Subsequently, American Talent Agency postponed the show. Ultimately, Akon was banned from the country. “Sexy B*tch” caused problems in Sri Lanka — but how did Americans react to it?

Akon in a suit
Akon | Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Avakian

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How Americans reacted to Akon’s ‘Sexy B*tch’

The censored version of “Sexy B*tch” reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Over 10 years after its release, it remains one of Guetta’s most popular songs. So far, only two of Guetta’s tracks have charted higher on the Billboard Hot 100 — “Without You” and “Turn Me On,” both of which reached No. 4. In a 2012 interview, Guetta noted how “Sexy B*itch” had a major influence on American pop music.

“When I listen to the radio in the U.S., every song sounds like ‘Sexy B*tch,’” Guetta told Arizona Foothills Magazine. “The urban dance thing has become huge. Now I have to push it because my sound has become so popular. It’s a challenge, but I like that.”

Subsequent pop songs like Rihanna’s hit “S&M” and “Only Girl (In the World)” certainly took some ideas from “Sexy B*tch.” The track also helped EDM become one of the defining sounds of the 2010s. “Sexy B*tch” struck a chord with American audiences — even if it caused quite a stir in Sri Lanka.